Glenn Nice and Bill Johnson, Department of
Botany & Plant Pathology, Purdue University
Last week I had the pleasure of being
in the Southeast part of Indiana counting weeds. It is occasionally
part of the job being in weed science and although it probably
would not make it on the show “Dirty Jobs” it can be
pretty hard on the knees. While face down I noticed that
the weed we were counting the most was wild garlic (Allium vineale L.).
Originally introduced from Europe, wild garlic
is a perennial that can be found though out the state of Indiana. It has
linear leaves that are hollow and looks like chives growing in
the field or yard. It can be separated from wild onion by
the fact that wild onion’s leaves are not hollow and wild
onion often appears to be smaller in stature. If you have
a chance to dig wild garlic up you will see that its leaves come
from an underground bulb. No surprise there, for wild garlic
is related to the very onion (A. cepa L.) we buy in the
grocery store. If you break wild garlic’s leaves and
take a sniff, you will smell a distinct onion or garlic smell. It
spreads by aerial bulbs or bulbs in the soil, seeds are reported
to not be a common way of spread.
Wild garlic has occasionally been used as an
edible and medicinal plant. Although toxicity is not commonly
reported in wild garlic, large doses in a short period of time
may cause problems due to sulfoxides found in the plant, not
to mention bad breath. In
the article “Wild Garlic, Allium vineale L. – Little
to Crow About,” the author sited a case reported by the Indiana
Academy of Science of cattle poisoning in 1917. I could not
find a copy of the original report for any details.
Wild garlic is most troublesome in wheat where
the aerial bulbs are similar in size as wheat grain. These bulbs can get processed
with the grain and taint the flavor of flower. It also can
be a weed in pastures, where it can also alter the flavor of milk. Wild
garlic is often present when planting soybean and corn. We
have also received calls regarding wild garlic control in lawns.
For information regarding control please see
the complete article “Wild
Garlic,” on the Purdue Weed Science web page.